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A Beginner’s Guide to Planning an International Family Reunion

Written by Tasmiah Rashid

This blog post was updated on April 27, 2023.

Picture this: it’s a warm, sunlit evening and you’re walking down a beach on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast in Italy. To your right, your children, nieces, and nephews are running along the sand, the sound of their laughter against the ocean waves echoing in the breeze. To the left, their grandparents, your siblings, and loved ones watch in delight, their laughter adding to the sound of joy surrounding you. Sound like a dream come true?

A family reunion abroad can be a dream-like experience…but only with the right planning! Coordinating people across states and nations, with different budgets and across multiple age groups, is quite the feat to accomplish. So where to begin? Right here! We’ve put together a list of simple tips to help you make international family reunion planning that much easier. You and your family will have the trip of a lifetime!

Start Planning Early

OT Family Reunion - Plan Early

Remember how difficult it was to plan that big birthday bash for yourself? Guest lists, reservations, cost estimates — the list of things to do was endless. Now imagine planning that, but with more people from different parts of the world and of all ages, in a foreign destination. Yikes!

Putting together an international trip for a large group requires a ton of coordination, so your best bet is to start planning at least a year in advance. The sooner you confirm the destination, dates, and attendee list, the sooner everyone can book their round trip flights and accommodations. And, don’t forget, the closer you get to the date, the fewer the choices and higher the prices become.

Research on Your Destination

OT Family Reunion - Research

Whether you’re going to Timbuktu or Thailand, remember to choose a destination where everyone can have a good time. That means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do some serious due diligence on what the area you’re traveling to has to offer.

Are there accommodations in a central location that can hold a big reservation like yours? Does it have enough amenities to meet your family’s needs? What’s the weather like that time of year? Does the area has enough activities for all ages to partake in? Once you’ve chosen your destination, you’ll want to get all this information about the area down pat before you book.

Create a Group Drive for Photos

OT Family Reunion - Photos

Group trips are all about making memories. And in the digital age, that means pictures galore! Sure, the instant gratification of clicking and instantly posting on social media is great. But, you’re also going to want to be able to go back and see all those pictures at a later date without having to comb through 10 different Facebook profile pages.

Coordinating a big group to share images in one place can be a difficult task. People might forget, some may not know how to upload them… the list goes on and on. When you’re in planning mode, create an online drive and share the link in advance with your family members. It’s the best way to ensure all the pictures make it into the hands of everyone without having to do some mass coordinating post-trip.

Choose a Ringleader…

…or become one yourself. Whether your trip is for eight people or eighty people total, you’re going to need one person to take the reins of the international family reunion planning and lead group activities. From meals to mass outings, this person is going to be doing some heavy lifting in coordinating. They’ll make reservations and create an itinerary. So make sure you all elect someone you know to be a master planner to take on this role for your group.

Of course, other family members can — and should — help out on all these tasks and assist in making the decisions on where to go and what to do. But be careful when delegating tasks. You don’t want five different people making 20 different dinner reservations!

You may also like: The Ultimate Vacation Packing List for a Family of Four!

Make a Detailed Itinerary

OT Family Reunion - Itinerary

Making an itinerary is imperative. And be prepared to only really get to half of it. While going with the flow seems relaxing at the outset, when you’re trying to wrangle a big crowd to get to do something together, it’s not going to be an easy feat to accomplish if it’s unplanned. Fun and spontaneous midnight ice cream runs are one thing. But coordinating it all last-minute is going to be pretty difficult between varied budgets, interests, and ages.

That being said, don’t forget that you’re on vacation! Your family members are probably going to want to get their own share of downtime. So just keep in mind that there are going to be activities, outings, and dinners that people will miss out on. Or, they might not even happen at all. Having a loose itinerary ahead of time will allow you and your loved ones to see what plans they want to join in on, and which ones they don’t. This is especially helpful for activities that require advanced bookings.

Plan a Budget

couple budgeting

One of the most important elements to consider when planning a family reunion trip is the budget. Getting a good sense of every family’s maximum budget will help you determine nearly every other aspect of the reunion. The goal of a family reunion is to include as many people as possible. It’s important that you find a budget that works for all potential attendees.

There are a number of factors that will influence your overall budget for the trip. Deciding whether to go with a road trip or a vacation that requires a flight will be one of the biggest logistical decisions that you need to make. Other factors that will greatly influence the budget include the length of your trip, accommodations, activities, and food choices. For instance, will you plan most meals out at restaurants or will you organize potluck meals? Be sure to also factor in any additional costs such as matching t-shirts, professional family photos, or any other significant costs.

Make Room for Downtime

Woman napping with dog
While it may be tempting to create a jam-packed itinerary, everyone will have a better vacation if you work a sufficient amount of downtime into your schedule. Don’t forget that this is not just a family reunion, it’s also a vacation.

Oftentimes, the best memories are created during these down periods. Savvy trip planners leave plenty of time for spontaneity. This is even more important if your trip will involve a wide range of ages. Not everyone will be up for a busy trip itinerary that leaves little time for rest and relaxation. Aiming for the ideal balance of fun activities and time to relax will ensure that everyone leaves feeling refreshed yet energized.

Plan a Few Group Activities

game night

The goal of this type of trip is to bring the family together in a fun setting. While individual family units may want to venture out on their own, a good reunion trip will include a few group activities that all family members will want to attend. Providing a suggested itinerary with the scheduled group well in advance will allow individual family units the chance to schedule their own outings.

Good ideas for group activities suitable for all ages and abilities include family dinners, movie screenings, a talent show, and game nights. You may also want to use the opportunity of everyone together in one place to schedule a professional photoshoot. Or, use the time to celebrate special family milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries. The possibilities are endless.

Tailor the Trip to People’s Needs

It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone in the family will have the same travel preferences and needs. This is particularly true when planning a multi-generational trip. While the healthy adults and teens in your group may welcome a river-rafting expedition or a long hike, seniors or families with infants and toddlers won’t find the same activities within their capabilities.

This is why it’s important to tailor the trip to the individual needs of your family. Having a few different options available each day for activities will ensure that everyone feels included. Doing various activities will also keep everyone from getting bored.

Have you ever been on a family reunion trip? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author

Tasmiah Rashid

In a past life, Tasmiah was either a Bollywood actress, renowned ethnographer or master chef; no questions asked. In this one, she is a shower-singing, croissant enthusiast, who also writes content for Fareportal, in that order.

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